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Appeals for cultural sensitivity and engagement are sometimes wrongly interpreted as acceptance of harmful traditional practices, or a way of making excuses for noncompliance with universal human rights. This is far from the case – such relativism provides no basis for action and produces only stalemate and frustration. Values and practices that infringe upon human rights can be found in all cultures. Culturally sensitive approaches determine what makes sense to people and work with that knowledge. Embracing cultural realities can reveal the most effective ways to challenge harmful cultural practices and strengthen positive ones.

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In 2008, the world reaches an invisible but momentous milestone: For the first time in history, more than half its human population, 3.3 billion people, will be living in urban areas. By 2030, this is expected to swell to almost 5 billion. Many of the new urbanites will be poor. Their future, the future of cities in developing countries, the future of humanity itself, all depend very much on decisions made now in preparation for this growth. 

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